I know I already shared earlier this week about the wonder of unexpected notes in the mail, but I couldn’t help myself to double dipping. My friend Jacqueline Alnes owns an Etsy shop called, PhDistance, where she creates the most inspiring art. Usually the art is paired by a quote. She recently sent me some surprise treats in the mail. I hung them up above B’s play kitchen, right next to our kitchen, so I can look at them every morning.
This act, of receiving and sending mail, always brings unexpected wonder. These two notes were full of extra love and support.
One of my graduate professors has been bringing our T/Th Ecocomposition class food every day since the start of the semester. When she brought donuts early on in January, I think most of us thought it would be a one time thing. But she hasn’t missed a day. I’ll call her “A.”
She doesn’t get anything “extra” for this. She doesn’t get to invoice her receipts and receive the money she spent on Trader Joe’s goodies on her next check. No one is watching her. Just us. And today it hit me how wonderful the act is.
This morning was my first day back to school having to get a toddler and a 8-week-old puppy ready before a long day ahead. There was so much added scrambling that I hardly took a few bites of a bagel my husband forgot and left on the counter.
When I sat at the wooden table this morning for class, pop-tarts, coffee dunkers, granola bars, and mini brownies with pink frosting and sprinkles adorned the table. I slid a brownie into my mouth and it tasted like sugary phenomenal bliss.
She’d tell us she started bringing us food because we voiced our concerns that we don’t get paid enough for the labor we do as graduate students for the university. Sometimes there are days, especially toward the end of the month, we struggle to pay the bills and grocery shop.
“When you told me you all [grad students] take care of each other, I wanted to take micro actions to help,” A said. She showed us that she listened. And although she cannot directly increase our paycheck by a few hundred dollars, the food helps. And it’s just really nice.
Last December I wrote an article for The Guardian on the US graduate student loan crisis. Many people chimed in, explaining I was not alone. On the fourth floor of our building, our department has a food pantry. It’s free. Most of us supply items up there ourselves, including feminine hygiene products and coffee, as well as dry goods, soda, and more. But breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays has been a delight.
“A” is the kind of role-model I really appreciate in a graduate degree. She reminds me: we may not be able to change the entire system in a day (or a semester) but small actions spread roots to form blooming results.
It’s Day 4 of the year and I’m already feeling the growing pains of doing something new every day. It’s hard. No wonder I have not done a project like this in ten years!
But to make this project more interesting, and to take it out of my own world, I decided I’d tell others’ experiences of wonder, too. I decided this from the beginning. I think there is wonder and enchantment that comes from listening and being present for others’ stories. Storytelling is a gift.
Well, yesterday my dad, Gavin, Nick, and Bennett came home with one of those stories.
The four of them spent the day at Legoland. Nick had a free ticket that was expiring, and the boys love it, anyhow, so they went.
However, sometimes we don’t know how big places like Legoland will be in accommodating my brother, Gavin. He needs a little extra help. But I’m proud and happy to report that the people who worked at Legoland went above and beyond for him. Because he cannot walk on his own, my dad has to carry him into each ride. I guess my dad was supposed to pick up a special ADA pass at guest services so Gavin could get to the front of each line — a nice gesture — but he didn’t know and did not have one when entering the first ride. Well, while my dad, Nick, Gavin, and Bennett were on their first ride, the ride attendant had called a supervisor and someone hand delivered my brother a pass. No one asked them, they just did that on their own.
At the end of the day, they said they were waiting in line somewhere, and wanted to ask another supervisor a special question. I guess Legoland has a really cool thing where some employees carry special gold coins on them, and you can ask them, “Have you seen Mr. Gold?” and if they have, they give you a free gold coin, which is a free ticket into the park!
Well, my dad had a good feeling about this guy carrying one, so he pushed Gavin his his wheelchair to the guy and asked him if he’d seen Mr. Gold. “Who is asking?” the supervisor responded.
“He is,” my dad said, placing his hand on my brother’s shoulder. “He would ask you if he could, but he can’t.”
The man then became extra gregarious and playful with Gavin. He engaged with Gavin while he searched in his pockets and found a Mr. Gold! Nick grabbed Gavin’s hand and extended it to be able to take the coin. My dad said the Legoland staff were all over-the-top kind to Gavin, and it was so nice to hear.
Sometimes, it’s difficult because Gavin wants to do normal fun things, but he just needs a little extra help, and I’m happy to report the two boys — Gavin and Bennett — were both able to experience the wonder of Legoland.
I’m grateful for days like this one. There is wonder in the kindness of strangers.